Works by Matilde Simas, Founder of Capture Humanity

Today, there are over 40 million slaves in the world, bringing slaveholders and traffickers about $150 billion annually. With high profits and low risk, human beings’ buying and selling have become the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world, surpassing even arms and drug trafficking. How can this be? Modern-day slavery, or human trafficking, exists in every county and under many guises. Issues including extreme poverty, corruption, cultural norms that devalue and commodify women and children, and an insatiable demand for exploitive sex and cheap labor fuel this crime. It may be hard to accept that this happens in our communities, but we must share the knowledge that this is a reality for far too many victims to change it.

Despite increasing efforts and a global movement to raise awareness about the atrocities of human trafficking, many people remain unaware that modern-day slavery persists in alarming numbers.

The Exhibition 

Click on the photos below to read the stories from the survivors.

The portraits and collected testimonies are part of an ongoing body of work to tell the survivors’ stories. The Faces Behind Atrocity series involved seven girls of four different nationalities, ranging in age from 13 to 16. The girls were victims of forced labor, forced marriage, and sex trafficking. They were lured by promises of education, sold outright by family members and forced into domestic servitude or prostitution, or sent away by family to marry a stranger. Some girls were exploited by someone they already knew, such as a relative, a neighbor, or a friend. They were rescued from the horrors of the trafficking world and are in various healing processes. In addition to providing a visual representation of their resilience, beauty, and strength, each survivor recorded a written testimony of how they were led into trafficking and the atrocities they faced.

Faces Behind Atrocity aims to be a tool for advocacy and learning. The series seeks to engage with an audience to challenge common myths about human trafficking and foster a dialogue about the root causes.

PWB Series: Survivor

PWB Photographer Matilde Simas documents HAART Kenya, an organization dedicated to ending modern slavery (human trafficking) against women and children in Kenya and East Africa. Simas spent two weeks photographing their workshops, community, and grief-stricken survival stories. HAART Kenya CEO Radoslaw Malinowski, outlines the organization’s mandate to eradicate human trafficking not only in Kenya but for all of Eastern Africa.

Created & Directed by Danielle Da Silva

Photographed by Matilde Simas

Edited by David Coulson


Human trafficking is an issue that touches every community, including cities, suburbs, and rural towns, but there is something each of us can do to help prevent it. The Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign provides plenty of opportunities for individuals or organizations to raise awareness about human trafficking. If you feel moved to help support awareness campaigns on human trafficking, please make a donation to Capture Humanity here.  Thank you for choosing to make a difference!

The Artist

Matilde Simas is a Portuguese American photographer whose portraits of survivors of modern-day slavery, aim to send a message; “Let our voices be heard, we are not afraid, and we are thriving.” The importance of engaging survivors in the creative process about how to best tell and represent their own personal stories serves to inform her audience to the realities of modern-day slavery, but through her diligent documentation is sharing the stories of those whom she honors with a wider audience.

Her unique style focuses on documentary and fine art, with her imagery simultaneously reflecting the sensitivity and the strength of her subjects. She considers photography to be a tool to drive social change and empower storytelling.  Her work focuses on issues of dignity and human rights around the world, illuminating the enduring strength of victims, survivors, and people affected by trauma. In her work, she actively seeks to allow her subjects’ agency — a way to impact the story and reclaim truth.

Simas has made show appearances at TIFA Winners Exhibition, Shibuya Cultural Center, Owada Gallery in Tokyo, Japan, showcased at the ForeMost Exhibition at Collective Naha in Okinawa, Japan, and State of the World PX3 Exhibition in Paris, Tokyo, Taipei, and New York.  She has recently been awarded a UNICEF Photo of the Year award and she also emerged the winner of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Social Cause International Photography Award from the Lucie Foundation. In 2017, she founded Capture Humanity, an organization focused on bringing awareness to and preventing human trafficking.





Follow the artist on Instagram!